Architecture School - 5 Things I Wish I'd Known

Hello and welcome.

Since you're here I'm going to assume you are either considering Architecture School, currently in it or just curious. Architecture is a strange course, it falls somewhere between artist and engineer. I graduated in November 2019 with a Masters in Architecture from the top school in Scotland (5th in the UK). From the seven years of school and placement, I have a lot of things I wish I'd known from day one.

A toxic trait of Architecture School is the studio culture of 'pulling an allnighter'. Throughout the years of school, numerous tutors would ask when we were going to start our allnighters. For a long time, I brushed it off as a hangover from their time studying. However, I noticed a LOT of students burning themselves out with sleepless nights. The sad truth is it wasn't making them better students. I don't know a single person who improved their grades from sleepless nights. The students that excelled post allnighter were already high performing students.

Well, Samantha, I hear you ask - if that doesn't work what will?

Working hard and smart consistently throughout the year. Chart your classes out and create a study chart for yourself, assign time according to the class weighting. Most importantly - try and stick to it, but be a little flexible. Your week overview is more important than the day to day. If you're stuck with one assignment and you're not being productive, switch to something else and do your hours for it later in the week. BUT meet your weekly targets! (I'll write a post about planning your semester targets.)

Your main class will be Studio Projects, which will usually account for a minimum of 50% of your end of year grade. You'll have other classes of smaller weighting that brings your total to 100%. I saw so many people miss out on getting a First Class Honors for Undergrad or a Distinction at Master because they only prioritised Studio. I don't know how your school grades, but at my school studio grades of 72 to 82 was a high grade there was occasionally a rough 90 but often nobody got something that high particularly in undergrad.

Why did I break this down? It was impossible to get 100 on a Studio Project, with that being a 50% chunk you need to supplement your grade with high marks in your other classes. Your classes have a weighting for a reason, use that to instruct the time you spend on them accordingly and you can get a really good all-around end of year grade.

The best way to refine your design skills is to read a lot of architecture books and journals to build up your Architecture knowledge. When you're feeling uninspired and stuck with your design projects, the best thing to do is go to the library and read about that area of design. The people in my year who performed the best were dedicated and spent a lot of time reading and researching.

This might seem out of context, but listen, I'm assuming you're a hard-working student and dedicate a lot of time to your studies. Joining a club at your school will let you meet people from other courses and let off some steam in the process. Most of the clubs only meet for an hour or two per week, you can fit this in! This is particularly important if you've moved for school, it'll help you build a social circle who have similar interests. My school blocked time off on Wednesday afternoons where no classes could take place to allow all students to join extracurricular clubs.

You're doing Architecture because you're interested in design and want to create beautiful spaces that make a difference. It's so easy to get swept up in other peoples ideas for your design, particularly your tutor. However, it's you that needs to stand up for finals and justify your decisions. Listen to all of your tutor's advice and explore ideas to justify why you did or did not do something. Your rationalisation of ideas is just as important as the output, saying your tutor told you too is not a good reason and won't help you score highly.

Big picture, your projects form your portfolio that you'll carry to interviews; if you aren't proud of your work it's going to be difficult to sell yourself to a potential employer. So take advice but always make sure you're happy with the direction of the project.

Stay creative and keep trying to make the world a better place one design at a time.


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